Consultation on National Occupational Standards for CSWs

Following the last blogpost (Does Signature Support a Lowering of Standards?), Signature are now requesting information on the feasibility of National Occupational Standards (NOS) for CSWs in education. My view is that anyone interpreting for Deaf BSL users in classrooms should have achieved the NOS for interpreting a stated in the previous post and I will be responding to that effect. Please see info below and respond with your views: 

A message from the BSL Coalition:

I would be very grateful if you could forward the link, below, to any of your colleagues or networks that you feel would be able to contribute.
The survey closes on the 19th September and your support is very much appreciated.
Kind Regards,

Gillian Marshall-Dyson
Funding and Projects Co-ordinator


A consultation to determine the feasibility of developing National Occupational Standards for Communication Support Workers (CSW)

Communication Support Workers provide access to the curriculum and the wider learning environment in education institutions for young people with hearing loss, sight loss or multi sensory impairment.

The BSL Coalition has commissioned this consultation to establish whether a set of National Occupational Standards is required to benchmark training and qualifications for CSWs working with people with hearing loss, sight loss or multi sensory impairment. Although CSWs can work with all young people in education, this piece of research is focusing on CSWs working with children under the age of 16.

If the need for National Occupational Standards for CSWs is identified, they will be developed as a separate piece of work through consultation with the CSW community as a whole.

National Occupational Standards are detailed statements of the skills, knowledge and understanding needed in employment. They inform vocational qualifications and can be used for a range of purposes including benchmarking, recruitment, training, assessment and course design.

Everything you tell us in this questionnaire will be treated in the strictest confidence and used for research purposes only in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Any reports generated from the information received will be presented in an aggregated, anonymous format.

If you have any queries about the BSL Coalition, please contact

Thank you for your time

Does Signature Support a Lowering of Standards?

For a while now various parties have been pushing for a register of CSWs. This may seem like a sound idea in principle but it is far from it. It seems that this is closer to becoming a reality and Signature is not helping matters:
1) CSWs are not fit for purpose. I started my career with the old EdExcel qualification and saw many people pass that course that should never have worked with Deaf students. Why? A lack of language skills and sound ethical practices. Most of the Deaf students I worked with in colleges and universities needed someone to interpret for them. I never did AtW bookings as I thought I’d be doing a disservice to the Deaf person who surely needed a trained interpreter. As an ex-Chair of ASLI used to explain it: anyone who is listening to English and picks up their hands to relay this into BSL for someone or watches someone produce BSL and relays that information into English is interpreting and therefore should have met the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Interpreting.2) So why then has Signature created an interpreting unit within the NVQ level 4 BSL qualification? CSW associations have been pushing for an interpreting unit within the EdExcel course for a number of years. ASLI has rightly fought against a lowering of standards. Now Signature has included an interpreting unit which will inevitably be used as a lower benchmark for interpreting, one which is lower than the NOS. All the arguments ASLI has made over the years about the National Occupational Standards are now effectively being ignored. Signature/NRCPD would stand to make funds from both the NVQ qualifications and a CSW register but perhaps has not considered the risks of further alienating interpreters. If this unit becomes a licence to interpret, as it surely will, then quality of interpreting provision will fall substantially. The term level 6 interpreter or level 6 CSW (both misnomers) will be no doubt be banded about and cause further confusion.3) And where is ASLI in all of this? ASLI has got too close to NRCPD to represent its members effectively. It has a place on the practitioners’ forum, which seems to be how NRCPD communicates fixed plans rather than how they get feedback from professionals in order to shape their direction. The ASLI Chair is on the board of NRCPD and has compromised his position in being able to effectively represent his own Association, a position which favours and defends NRCPD registration too heavily to be open to any criticisms ASLI members have of the register.
4) Meanwhile the DWP now seem to be pushing for more CSWs to work in AtW assignments especially for emails and phone calls. I’ve had appalling emails from Deaf people with terrible English grammar written by CSWs and had a plethora of appalling phone calls. Interpreters are not just for meetings. These are skilled jobs where you still need to have achieved the NOS in order to know what you are doing. Why aren’t NRCPD doing more to represent interpreters and the skills they have worked hard to attain? If they will soon also be registering CSWs then perhaps that does not matter to them. Why is no one talking about quality? AtW is designed to allow Deaf and disabled people equality in work, to find and retain jobs. The DWP would happily force people to use CSWs as quality for them is not an issue. It comes down only to cost regardless of value for money even when an unqualified Support worker charges not much less than an interpreter and cannot provide the same service. A register of CSWs rather than enabling registration for this group will inevitably be used against Deaf people by the DWP. Some Deaf people want CSWs. My personal opinion is that public money should not be wasted on unregulated and unskilled personnel. This also should not become the norm for those who do not want them and choose registered professional interpreters. The use of CSWs in education is another matter and regardless of how many self-published books support this, it still does a disservice to the BSL-using Deaf student.
5) Would a register of CSWs be used for schools only? No. For the reasons stated above. Would it benefit schools? Maybe. Would it benefit the Deaf student who is a BSL user. No. They would need a Registered Interpreter (see above). ACSW and NATED have now merged and formed ADEPT which puts CSWs in a stronger position.
Unless those supporting a CSW register stop pushing for CSWs to be used in areas outside of education such as AtW, for CSW courses to have interpreting units, for ‘career CSWs’ who do not develop skills and a qualifications body which goes against the NOS then I doubt interpreters will support moves by Signature or CSW organisations for registers or interpreting units where they do not belong.